Positive review after positive review; some describing Union Dining as their favourite, or at least their favourite in a category. It feels like this restaurant has been around for a long time, and continues to be a feature of Richmond dining.
The first time we dined here it was newly open and nice, but just nice. With the number of restaurants we like to try, repeat visits are treasured like an old family heirloom. However, another visit for work at a function upstairs was quite impressive, especially thinking back to slow cooked casserole style lamb, but that was now over three years ago.
I have wanted to come back for a while, but there are just too many restaurants to choose from around Richmond. This was our chance! Knowing this weekend was going to be particularly chilly, and with entertainment gold card in hand, we decided to go local and perhaps give Union Dining another go. Finding that there is a 6.30pm Saturday night booking available only 24 hours in advance, we are on our way with only a day’s notice.
A little further up from the current epicentre of Swan Street, the restaurant is set on a corner, with a good looking fitout that attracts more than a glance as people walk by. There is a warmth here with the medium lighting showing off the wooden furnishings, that are better spaced than a bistro, but by no means detracting from the atmosphere of a busy room.
As we assess the menu I realise that the mains are not jumping out at me, but I settle on the lamb. Knowing from past experience that meals can be in healthy proportions we decide to share an entree and see how we go for dessert. That entree is the gnocchi, with a taleggio and white wine sauce, scattered with an assortment of leaves and walnuts for some texture. It is a particularly nice touch that we are served separate plates even though we had elected to share, and the presentation of both is inviting. The dish as a whole is enjoyable, but the sauce is not as rich as you would expect given the inclusion of taleggio as a star ingredient.
Moving on to the braised Three Rivers saltbush lamb, and I was right to move carefully into mains. The portion is very generous, especially with the extra comfort of a white bean ragu. Coming together with roast golden beetroots and salsa verde on top of the sauce, the dish is flavoursome and perfect for the cooler months. By the end I was drinking a lot of sparkling water as the level of salt had not been curbed to balance the saltbush used in the lamb. Some tweaking there and it becomes a great dish. Catherine’s oven baked snapper fillet was certainly not as heavily seasoned, and I was going across the table to snatch more than my fair share of tastes. The bright colours of the soused red cabbage and harissa spiced chickpeas worked for the presentation, and became the flavour focus of the dish along with the gorgeous fish.
There was no way we were leaving prior to dessert, but equally there was no way we could fit in one each, so we settled on the Earl Grey pannacotta with rhubarb and pistachios. The Earl Grey flavour burst through each taste, and the rhubarb was beautifully poached. It was a good finish to a rich meal.
With attentive and friendly service throughout, and good food at reasonable prices, I can see why so many friends and colleagues have enjoyed Union Dining over the years.